Becoming a better conversationalist can seem complicated and daunting. But it doesn’t have to be! If you are willing to consider a few important practices, follow some proven guidelines, and work on them regularly, you can begin to experience the benefits of improved conversations ─ and an overall increase in your social intelligence. You discover what works and feels good in your social interactions ─ and what needs tweaking.
Today I want to share three interrelated practices that can increase anyone’s social intelligence. Applied regularly, you will find they are huge conversation and connection game-changers.
The first practice is…
Awareness. In her fascinating book Insight, Tasha Eurich notes that the vast majority of us are…ahem… a little low on the self-awareness scale. We don’t really know ourselves ─ what makes us tick, what we are capable of, what could be our “areas for growth,” and so on. Or, if we do know ourselves fairly well, we still may not be aware of how others are experiencing us. For example, at any given moment are we aware of how much or how fast we are talking and how little we may be listening? Are we modulating the volume and tone of our voices? How are we making others feel in our presence — or with our words?
Just the other day I blurted something out to my boyfriend as we were packing to head out for a weekend trip. His response? “Did you really have to say it like that?” Ouch! I clearly wasn’t aware of how I delivered my words or how they would make him feel. I was busy getting us packed! I know I can do better. We all can. Increasing our awareness is key. How can we do that? Check out the next important practice.
Being present. Our world, lives, and minds are so filled with distractions! How can we possibly “be more aware” when our schedules, To Do Lists, and brains are constantly in overdrive ─ and we are constantly checking our phones? I believe we can change our busy-busy, tech-addicted habits. We just have to want to. We can slow down, take moments to breathe deeply and slowly, and even try practices such as meditation or yoga. Sometimes just saying the word “calmmmmm” works for me!
Is being more present to others worth it? Absolutely! Being present shows caring, respect, grace, and even leadership. Are we all guilty of not being fully present at one time or another? Of course. And we can do better.
Let’s look at another related habit that can boost our social intelligence.
Noticing. Ask any artist, writer, musician, creative person, innovator, or problem-solver. Being really good at what they do requires them to be good at noticing; to use their ability to slow down and closely examine what’s happening, both inside and outside of themselves. Singer-songwriter Darden Smith wrote a book about this, The Habit of Noticing: Using Creativity to Make a Life and a Living.
Applying the habit of noticing in conversation could mean paying closer attention to:
- How we feel in various situations
- How this influences our words, volume, and tone
- The overall “vibe” we are sharing with others
- How much we are talking versus listening (worth a repeat)
- How our conversation partners are reacting to what we’re saying
- Their words as well as their body language and facial expressions
- What is being said so we can ask questions to keep an exchange going in a relevant and meaningful way
- Who is standing off by themselves at a social gathering
- What group of people could be the most approachable and fun to join
- Whether the checkout clerk or waitperson could use an extra kind word or compliment
- When it could be time to shift, boost, or make a smooth exit from a conversation that’s not pleasant, fruitful, or interesting.
Noticing is a subtle habit that requires us to be both aware and fully present. Working regularly on these three habits ─ awareness, presence, and noticing — is key to improving your social intelligence and securing your status as a brilliant, attractive, and memorable conversationalist.
What’s not to love about that? Your loved ones, colleagues, and customers will thank you!
Want to learn more about how to improve your conversations and connections? Check out my new award-winning book More Than Just Talk: The Essential Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Enjoy Better Conversations and my first double award-winner, The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business. Both are available from virtually every online book retailer and at BookPeople in Austin, Texas.
Want to hear about my upcoming programs and events? Email me at pattidenucci[at]gmail.com